Olympic Torch Version 5: “The Many Cousins of Complicity”

The Many Cousins Of Complicity

Arrest warrant for Omar Hassan al-Bashir
unenforceable on Khartoum
that fears not. Sudan looms.

She has been there. Returned.

Her many years wasted, home
from Sudan, an unvarnished 2008
Olympic Ticket, framed, fractured
glass covered in the blood of
her optimism drained from
her, like a lamb in the mouth
of a lion like Omar
coifed mane, lounging,
a gray demonist under hat, and
she, cousin Delia,
clings to souvenirs; I

retell the tale of tails wagging:
my three cousins, fallen

cousins driven on edges
of cynicism, bravely
continued to pass
the torch of

Delia travelled by Sudan,
a UN worker who

just wanted
to survive her gambit
into humanitarianism,
come home intact
to her husband, see
the Olympics as
honored guest, perhaps

Janjaweed’s fleeing victims
stopped in a camp
for a chat

She, a peacekeeper
listened for awhile
to tales of genocide
from refugees of Darfur

Slaughters on memory pause
too starved to indulge grief for
the dignitary just yet,
a Darfur drudgery one
asked why Delia cried

Bad news through Khartoum —
Delia’s child watching cartoons
sent e-mail that
the dog died

Melamine* from China
supporter of Sudan
did the canine in

Don’t they eat dogs in China
the Darfur woman of dead child says

She is insulted,
has lost her appetite for politics

Oil for China
and a veto of sanctions.
Khartoum is happy, and
flies in weapons
for the final solution,
but politely, because diplomacy

is of utmost importance
to China, market dream
for every company
drooling over
billions of customers

Delia tells her husband
who has a distant cousin
with Chinese roots
to, for God’s sake,
be discreet

Her Mother is from Panama,
hates her husband’s
(as she imagines it)
asian eyes, though
he speaks fluent Spanish
(Chinese, English, Tagalog),
quite a bungee linguist is he

Darfur intrudes:
“Will UN troops
protect us”,
a woman wants to know.
Srbrenica she thinks
to herself, but won’t
dare say

Maybe, safety in Chad,
she demurs, but
even here
another message for her

Leave me alone, she screams,
I’m doing good work

Your Mother had
cough medicine,
diethylene glycol
from China
it says,
a minor counterfeit
resulting in death

Not now,
I’m doing good work

Cousin Jinyan
is under house arrest
for protest

Not now. Get us
tickets for
2008 Summer Games

Her Hubby told me
she’s not to worry —
sending flowers,
has tickets, but

hearing the torch would
travel through Tibet,
I called cousin Molly
the Tibetan trapped in China

She’s worried
called home to Aba
Sichuan Province, China
to hear the brooding

from monks in the teahouse —
many dead in Tibet, from Lhasa
protests spreading

mad Han hegemony awry
with soldiers and
agent provocateurs
uniforms and robes

Molly doubts the torch is coming.
Thinks runners in Peru.

Odd call
home. She sells
Buddhist statues still,
swears she doesn’t know
the Dalai Lama

I’m confused, heard
she wants to
go to Peru

Odd call home. She
speaks in riddles.

She seems to know Tibet
is not Peru

Not a Westerner
she’s a Tibetan, yet
with biblical aspirations

Speaks of forty days and forty nights
140 dead, and
it seems she seeks
to go to Peru

Odd call home. She

will not peruse the news
from Lhasa,
or even Aba
or Luhuo.
Sichuan food for thought.

She’s singing sweetly
on the phone in English
an old Irish song,
“cockles and mussels
are dead in Peru.”
An odd call is this. Arresting…

Seems she
might be going to
a re-education camp for torture
to learn spelling and about
Szechuan Restaurants in Peru

News of spring colors and flights.
Aba green with
a flood of soldiers.
Whirlybirds hover.

In China
she sells
Buddhist statues still
with cockles and mussels
alive in Peru

No calls,
merry or odd. I
how is Peru?

Tell me if

a llama died
on the high road
sweet and narrow

greeting Molly of Lhasa
in spirit alive
with a torch
and a ticket to heaven,
tell me because

nothing seems changed except that
Delia, Jinyan, and I are
dead to the world
without faith
without witnesses.

*Melamine, a chemical derived from coal was found in pet food that killed dogs and cats. It is used in China as a make-believe protein that has no nutritional value. See: “In China, Additive To Animals’ Food Is An Open Secret,” New York Times, April 30, 2007, pp. A1, A8, by David Barboza and Alexei Barrionuevo.

“Poisoned Toothpaste in Panama Is Believed to Be From China,” New York Times, May 19, 2007, p.A3

“2 Activists Are Under House Arrest and Barred From Leaving China,” New York Times, May 19, 2007, p. A3.

“At Shuttered Gateway to Tibet, Unrest Simmers Against Chinese Rule,” New York Times, March 26,2008. p. A7.

“50 Years After Revolt, Clampdown on Tibetans” by Edward Wong, New York Times, March 5, 2009, pp. 1, A10.

— Douglas Gilbert
Books by Douglas Gilbert